Health and Fitness Column

Parents would have defeated kids in a race

By John Taylor | Dec 10, 2013
Photo by: File John Taylor

According to a new study performed by the University of South Australia, Americans who participated in fitness testing as part of their physical education classes in the 1970s would have easily beat currently enrolled students in a timed mile.
The investigation examined over 100,000 fitness test scores recorded by American physical education teachers from 1960 to 2010. The researchers found that students were in the best cardiovascular shape from 1970 to 1979, and had the worst timed mile scores from 2000-2010.
“The typical American child in the year 2000 would finish 3/4 to onr lap behind the typical American child from the 1970s,” explains the University of South Australia’s Dr. Grant Tomkinson, the lead researcher for this investigation.
The authors theorized that this is occurring for a variety of reasons.
First, the advancements in technology have created more entertainment options for the current generation of students. Because these options tend to be more sedentary, students are no longer choosing to play as a means of keeping themselves engaged.
Furthermore, schools are now more restrictive on activities and the number of exercise minutes students are offered due to more required classroom instructional time and concerns about injury liability lawsuits.
However, according to a study from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, there is no conclusive evidence that suggests eliminating physical activity opportunities for increased instructional time leads to improved academic test scores. Furthermore, a study published by researchers at the University of Minnesota found student injury rates in recess and P.E. class have remained steady since 1980.
Basically, the related research found schools that cite these factors as reason to deprive students of physical activity are making unintelligent polices based on emotional reactions rather than researched-based science.
The study also cited parent fears of their children becoming victims of criminal activity, a lack of disposable income necessary to pay for sports equipment and registration fees, and the increasing social acceptance of unhealthy lifestyle choices as other reasons why student timed mile scores have increased.
This study makes me wonder how parents react to this information. Would a dad make fun of their children, and say, “I’m 50 years old and can still beat you in a race,” not bring the subject up at all to spare their child’s feelings, or would they be more proactive to ensure their son or daughter improves their fitness levels?
I can already imagine some parents are reading this, and are saying to themselves, “Yep, those stupid iPhones and Facebook are the reason our kids are overweight,” yet they have out-of-shape children of their own because they allow their kids to be on the computer all day instead of playing outside.
All parents are going to run their household the way they see fit, but is making fun of a child’s lack of conditioning really parenting? Wouldn’t it make more sense to recognize a student has subpar physical fitness levels and take the proactive steps to improve this health-related problem?
Of course, not every kid is musically inclined, so maybe it’s ok for students in this generation to be slower runners … right?